SALT LAKE CITY — Millennials are moving around quite a lot, but it appears they are settling down close to home, according to new findings released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The agency, in coordination with researchers at Harvard University, found that about eight out of 10 young adults live within 100 miles of where they grew up, including almost six out of 10 who live within 10 miles.
The data is based on people born between 1984 and 1992, or between the ages of 30 and 38 this year — a group commonly referred to as millennials. Researchers used U.S. Census Bureau data to gather where a person in this age range was at 16 and then again at 26 to piece together migration patterns.
They found that the average person only moved about 181 miles from home, which is why so many are close to where they grew up. But what about millennials who grew up in cities and towns across Utah?
Migration among Utah millennials
The Census Bureau and Harvard University launched an interactive data website in correlation with their study, which offers a complex breakdown of where people moved on a more micro level. It's broken down by commuting zones, which mash communities together. There are a dozen of these that include Utah towns and cities.
It appears that Utah fits the national trend for the most part, said Mallory Bateman, the director of demographic research at the University of Utah's Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, after an initial review of the data,
"It just depends where you are, but (with) at least this age group in Utah, there were a lot of young adults who kind of stayed nearby or maybe moved to a different part of the state," she said.
About three out of four people within the qualifying age range born in the Salt Lake City commuting zone — a zone that includes Salt Lake, Davis, Morgan, Summit, Tooele, Wasatch, and Weber counties — remain in the area, according to the data. Another 8% still live in Utah, while only about 17% have moved out of state. The average Salt Laker only moved about 165 miles from where they grew up, 17 miles below the national average.
Only about a quarter of people in this age range who moved to Salt Lake City came from other states.
A few other Utah commuting zones follow this trend, too.
- Logan (Utah and Idaho): The average person growing up in this area moved 177 miles. About 58% remain in this zone, and another 27% still live in Utah or just north of the Utah-Idaho border.
- Provo: The average person growing up in this area moved 175 miles. About 67% remain in this zone, and another 16% still live in Utah.
- St. George: The average person growing up in this area moved 216 miles. About 53% remain in this zone, and another 23% still live in Utah.
- Vernal: The average person growing up in this area moved 152 miles. About 61% remain in this zone, and another 23% still live in Utah.
There are also a few cities that buck the trend. For example, Loa in Wayne County has the lowest retention rate of any commuting zone in Utah. Only about a quarter of people born in the south-central part of Utah still live within the region, though another 63% still live in Utah.
Neighboring Richfield had a similar trend, with 38% sticking around the area, while another 47% remain in the state.
Then there's Moab, where the average person growing up in the area moved 248 miles. Only about 42% remain in this commuting zone, though 26% still live in Utah. It's similar in Cortez, Colorado, which includes another portion of southeast Utah. About 43% born in that area still live in the area, though another third still live in either Colorado or Utah.
A few cities blend the trends. A person growing up in the Flagstaff, Arizona, area, which includes parts of southern Utah, has moved about 292 miles, which is well above the national average. However, nearly half of the people who grew up in the area still live there and over three-fourths still live in either Arizona or Utah.
Rock Springs, Wyoming, which also includes parts of Utah, has a similar pattern. The average person has moved 249 miles, though close to half still reside in the area, and another quarter live in either Utah or Wyoming.
In Price, the average person has only traveled 180 miles, just below the average, but only 42% remain in the Price area. The average distance is lower because another 42% have stayed in Utah.
Other interesting migration patterns
It's not clear why millennials moved around the way they did, though Gardner Policy Institute has previously studied Utah migration patterns. They've found people move around quite a lot because of different educational opportunities or jobs, Bateman said.
She adds that income and race/ethnicity can factor into migration, too.
"In Salt Lake, if your parents were in the top 20% (income bracket), you were more likely to stay in town or stay in the region," Bateman said.
When millennials do move, it seems they were drawn to bigger cities. New York City, with about 3.2% of movers, was the most common destination people moved to outside of their own individual community zone, followed by Los Angeles (2.6%), Washington, D.C. (2.2%), Atlanta (1.9%) and Seattle (1.8%).
In Utah's case, those who moved out tended to go to bigger cities in the West, including Phoenix, Denver, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. The Grand Junction, Colorado, commuting zone was also a popular draw, especially for those who grew up in central and eastern Utah.
Contributing: Allie Litzinger